Andrew Raycroft rises to the challenge

Dallas Stars coach Marc Crawford said he wanted to give backup goalie Andrew Raycroft a challenge by starting him against Eastern Conference leading Washington Capitals Thursday night. Raycroft answered the challenge, stopping 37 of 38 shots in helping the Stars to a 2-1 victory that ran their winning streak to a season-high five games.

“Andrew Raycroft was absolutely terrific,” Crawford said. “I don’t think you are going to get a much bigger win from your backup than to have him play one of the top teams in the league and have a performance like that.”

Raycroft improved to 3-1-0 on the season, while lowering his goals against average to 1.65 and raising his save percentage to .951 on the season. He did that on a night while facing one of the most talented and highest scoring teams in the league.

“They’re a dangerous team,” Raycroft said. “We did a great job. The rush chances are the ones that really get you and I thought we did a great job. I don’t remember any great rush chances that they had. That was a big key for us. “

Raycroft, making his fourth start of the season, came up big in the first period when the Stars were on their heels a bit and Washington had a 14-7 shots advantage. The Stars were able to get out of the period tied at 0-0.

“Razor weathered the storm for us and allowed us to get our legs under us,” said Stars captain Brenden Morrow.

“He’s been amazing since day one when he came in here,” Stars forward Brandon Segal said of Raycroft. “Every time he is in the net he is ready to go. It’s great to have two great goaltenders to rely on. He was outstanding tonight.”

The Dallas netminder and Washington’s Michael Neuvirth were both perfect in net until 6:21 left in the second period when Mike Ribeiro scored on the power play, knocking home the rebound of a Brad Richards shot to give the Stars a 1-0 lead.

Washington drew even Mike Knuble scored a power play goal off a great play and pass by Mike Green at 10:18 of the third period to tie the game at 1-1.

But just 20 seconds later the Stars got what would be the game-winner when Brenden Morrow sent a cross-ice pass to Segal, who came down the right wing and beat Neuvirth with a shot from the top of the circle.

“I just ripped the shot and it went in,” said Segal. “It felt pretty good.”

That goal held up as the game-winner, but for a few seconds it appeared in doubt. Washington scored what appeared to the game-tying goal with 7.6 seconds left, but it was waved off because it was ruled that Caps forward Alex Ovechkin was in the crease and had interfered with Raycroft. So, the Stars held on for the 2-1 victory and a fifth straight victory.

“It’s huge,” said Segal. “We’re gaining confidence every game now.”

During their five-game winning streak the Stars have allowed just six goals. They’ve allowed more than one goal in just one of those games.

“We’re playing real good hockey now,” said Raycroft. “We’re limiting chances, we’re not giving much up. … We’re just playing real good team hockey now.”